Creating a Liberal Empire: Histories and Legacies

This book will address the question of how liberal society attempts to reconcile empire to its values and principles. This is not only a contemporary issue. It is also historical. In the early nineteenth century, the British Empire self- consciously faced this issue as it created the colonies of Australia and New Zealand. At this moment, there was a widespread hope that policies could be developed that would create an empire of racial reconciliation and cooperation between settlers and indigenous peoples. The self-evident failure of that aspiration, however, did not mean that the legacies of the effort or period were lost. They lived on in ways that resonated throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Thus, the culture of British imperialism presented itself both at home and abroad as practicing a liberal imperialism compared to other nations. And at the end of the twentieth century, the indigenous peoples’ rights movements in the old settler colonies evoked an eerie return to the issues of the early nineteenth century. Land restitution was their central demand, the law was the main instrument of redemption and racial reconciliation was the rhetorical frame of their appeal.

Project leader(s):
  • Richard Price (Department of History, University of Maryland)

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